Is our voting system broken?

As an unapologetic leftist, it’s difficult to admit that living through the Conservatives’ rein in a minority government wasn’t painful. Sure, their social policies are cringe-worthy in their ruthlessness, economically they’re always rearing to expand tax cuts to the wealthy and, globally, their war doctrine is repugnantly invasive, but at least they couldn’t call all the shots. That changed with the election this year when Harper won a majority of seats.

The structure went from an open debate forum, where different sides had to work together in order to accomplish anything, to an express line where Harper and his like-minded allies have the ability to bowl over their opponents. It’s believed that the electorate swung and Canadian voters decided that the Conservatives best represent them as a whole… or did they?

A closer look out the makeup of actual votes seriously shakes the foundations of this theory. According to Elections Canada, while the NDP received 30.6 percent of the votes and the Liberals got 18.9 percent, the Conservatives with 39.6 percent managed to score most of the seats and therefore have the loudest voice. These numbers tell us that it isn’t a small number of people being underrepresented, but in fact almost half of all voters. A whopping 49.5 percent reside to the left of the political spectrum and yet, we still have a Conservative majority because of the way our voting system works.

To the right of spectrum, there is only one real option: the Conservatives. There are simply no other substantial traditional parties on the ballot. If you’re a pro-life, religious individual, the Conservatives are really your only viable option.

For the left, this simply isn’t the case. If you are looking for economic reform and a social policy that fits with a giving agenda, you have two real choices: the NDP or the Liberals. The past election proved that this causes severe issues. In fact, because of this split, many votes cast for either party are completely lost altogether. If you vote Liberal in a riding, and your neighbour votes NDP, you aren’t sending a coherent message; often the Conservatives can sneak up and win despite the fact that the two other major parties amount to a higher number of votes.
The questions that inevitably come up are, “Is this fair? Is this just the way our democracy works? Is this a solid formula we must follow?” Simply put, the answer is no.

There is a fairer way to do things and it’s known as representational voting. This system allows you to write a number two choice on your ballot. If, say, the Green party falls short, you can rest assured that your vote isn’t wasted and your default for the Liberals comes into play. It’s a system used in numerous countries, from Brazil to Denmark to Greece.

What’s clear right now is that what we have isn’t working. For a while, with the Harper minority, things appeared stable, but as of now anything could happen. The Globe and Mail has reported that there are Conservative plans to get rid of the long form gun registry, to cut $200 million from the CBC’s budget and, finally, to completely shift tax codes in the next four years, all without input from 49.5 percent of the Canadian voters.

People need to know that their votes count, and with the current system, it’s clear that massive changes can be made despite the stance of the majority, all thanks to a voting system which provides more opportunities for one group than another.

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